BLOG: We Serve and Protect (The Ruling Class)

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte poses with a fist bump during the anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing at the Philippine Air Force headquarters in Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. Impassioned speeches by Duterte about the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have repeatedly led his government to issue clarifications, though he has been on the job less than three months. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)
Monday, Oct 24, 2016 at 2:19 pm by Lianza Reyes

“That rally created traffic!”

More than four months since Duterte’s presidential transition began in the Philippines, there has been a wild hysteria that is slowly taking over the country, and it’s starting to catch fire beyond the country’s borders. While many have paid close attention to his latest remarks on the Philippines separating from the United States, others should also examine the most recent protest that occurred in front of the U.S. Embassy.

On Wednesday, October 19, members of the militant group Sandugo gathered in front of the embassy to protest for two reasons: to support Duterte’s independent foreign policy, and to oppose the militarization of indigenous peoples’ land. Video footage of the protest went viral; police officers pulling on the hair of protesters, a van reverse driving towards the crowd, and an officer carrying an injured man. Even more striking was an image of a vandalized car, where the words ‘we serve and protect’ were nearly covered by a shakily written ‘the ruling class’ below it.

Many argue that the responding violence the police treated protesters with was inevitable and almost necessary, since the group had no permit to protest and thus was abusing their right. Moreover, since activists did not hesitate to physically provoking the police, the damage was called for. However, when you look at the footage, one can easily see how ‘damage’ can be called ‘abuse’ instead.

After all, when has police brutality been acceptable? Even if such actions are done in defense, or in protection of themselves, nothing can justify how police so easily turned their backs against the people. Nothing can justify how they were so quick to hurt them, not even stopping when protesters were begging them to stop. One must look at the inequality in these two groups. The police had their guns, clubs, trucks, and shields at the ready to attack people for disturbing the peace. These protesters only had stones from the ground, signs, and dignity to oppose the use of ethnic land for military purposes.

This is not about being anti or pro-Duterte, as some have argued. Recall that the protest was conducted in support of the Anti-US policy. You are essentially allowing yourself to be hurt even if you support him. This is not about being for or against the government. This is about the acceptance of police brutality and the violation of human rights at the hands of police. This is about police abusing their power because they think hurting civilians is “justified” when they are blocking the roadways.

At the core of this, once again, the elitist society of the Philippines makes itself glaringly apparent. When indigenous peoples come forward saying that their land, the paramount aspect in their lives, is being taken away from them, the law does not protect them. When Sandugo members do not have a permit but want to demonstrate bloodlessly, the law does not protect them. The law protects the armed police who can decide to hurt others. The law protects government who pay little attention to the suffering of impoverished and homeless. The disregard for the life of activists within this news story alone is tragic, and overall, discouraging.

This is what people who complain about how the protest ‘created traffic’ simply do not understand.

NOTE: This article represents the views of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of CitrusTV, its members, or Syracuse University.